The wintry day started out with promise for 22-year-old Jim Jordan of Danbury. A century later, it’s legendary.
Hunting over fresh snow on the morning of Nov. 20, 1914, south of Danbury in Burnett
The 10-point white-tailed deer shot Nov. 20, 1914, by Jim Jordan in Danbury, Wis. The buck measured 2061/8 inches, a world record until 1993, and still a U.S. record.
County, Jordan and his friend Egus Davis cut several deer tracks, including the prints of what looked to be a very large buck.
The pair followed the tracks through brush near a railroad line until a group of deer jumped up. Davis shot a doe, securing highly sought venison.
But a heavy-racked deer was among those that galloped away. Jordan set his sights on the big buck and continued his hunt along the tracks.
His quest for, subsequent kill and later loss and recovery of the massive 10-pointer formed one of North America’s greatest deer stories.
“The tale is as large as the antlers,” said Mike Kornmann, Burnett County community resource agent for the University of Wisconsin Extension.
The deer, known as the Jordan Buck, measures 2061/8 inches under the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
It was the world-record typical whitetail until 1993, when a buck shot by Milo Hanson in Saskatchewan bested it.
The Jordan Buck remains the largest typical whitetail ever taken in the U.S., according to Boone and Crockett records.
This year, the centennial of Jordan’s hunt, has brought the buck and its story back into the limelight.
Several events commemorating the buck have been held in Burnett County.
Songs have been written about the buck. Tourists and others can relive the hunt on marked segments of the Gandy Dancer Trail near Danbury.
And on Thursday, the 100th anniversary of the hunt, Wisconsin will officially observe “James Jordan Buck Day.”
It’s an honor that took an incredibly elusive path. In fact, the buck was lost twice, once for many years.
The details of the story were provided in interviews over the years with Jordan and Davis. Jordan died in 1978 at age 86.
While Davis gutted the doe, Jordan followed the tracks north on a line paralleling the railroad tracks and heading toward Danbury.
As the tracks neared the Yellow River, Jordan paused to look for deer. At that moment, Jordan said an approaching train blew its whistle. Several deer then stood up in grass about 50 yards away and took off running.
Jordan set the sights of his Winchester Model 1892 on the big buck, firing three times and emptying the rifle. He believed he hit the deer but it kept running.
Jordan later said he furiously searched his pockets, believing he was out of cartridges. He found one and reloaded.
A bit north along the trail Jordan found blood and followed it to the water’s edge. Seconds later he saw the buck crossing the river. As it climbed the opposite shore, Jordan fired his last bullet, downing the buck.
The young hunter was so excited that he waded across the cold river and looked at the buck. He’d need assistance to move the massive animal, he knew, and left it as he walked to Danbury to get help.
After a change of clothes, Jordan, Davis and two of Davis’ sons returned to the site with a horse. But the buck was gone.
Jordan said it must have slid down the bank into the river. The men searched the river and found the buck hung up on a boulder about 200 yards downstream.
The buck was taken to town and drew a crowd. One of the onlookers, George Van Castle of Webster, offered to mount the buck for $5. Jordan agreed, paid the fee in advance and Van Castle left with the head.
It would be the last time Jordan would see the rack for 50 years.
In the months after taking possession of the antlers, Van Castle moved near Hinckley, Minn., about 20 miles west of Danbury.
It’s not known if Van Castle attempted to notify Jordan of the delays in mounting or change in address. Jordan said he traveled to Webster in early 1915 to check on the status of the mount. To his surprise, the rack and Van Castle were gone.
Van Castle later moved to Florida, leaving his Minnesota house vacant for 40 years with Jordan’s rack inside.
The record antlers collected dust until 1959, when Van Castle’s house was purchased. Items found in the house were sent to be sold at a secondhand store in Sandstone, Minn.
As fate would have it, the rack was noticed by Bob Ludwig, Jordan’s nephew. Ludwig bought the mount for $2.
Ludwig knew the rack was big. But how big? He measured it and came up with a score that would make it a world record under the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system. The measurement was confirmed by an experienced scorer.
A subsequent Boone and Crockett panel made it official: at 2061/8 inches, the buck was the top typical whitetail in the world.
Ludwig told friends and relatives about the news and began to show off the rack. When Jordan saw it, he exclaimed: “That’s my deer!”
Although Jordan had told the story of his massive buck many times over the years, Ludwig was skeptical.
The buck was listed in 1965 as the top whitetail by Boone and Crockett. It was recorded as taken by an unknown hunter near Sandstone, Minn.
The story remained unresolved until 1977, when Ron Schara, then outdoors writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, traveled to Danbury to hear Jordan’s claim about the buck.
Schara’s column about his meeting with Jordan caused Boone and Crockett officials to investigate further. They were convinced and in December 1978 the group’s records committee officially declared Jordan as the hunter who killed the world-record whitetail.
Significantly, the place of kill also was corrected to Wisconsin.
Sadly, Jordan died two months before the records committee ruled.
The original rack of the Jordan Buck is now owned by and on display at Bass Pro Shops headquarters in Springfield, Mo. Replica mounts are found at several sites in Wisconsin, including Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area in Grantsburg and Cabela’s stores in Green Bay and Richfield.
The Jordan Buck stood as the world-record typical until Hanson’s Saskatchewan whitetail topped it.
When it comes to size and quality of story, the Jordan Buck may never be surpassed.
About Paul A. Smith Paul A. Smith covers outdoors and conservation issues. Twitter: @mjsps Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 414-224-2313